Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed dire budget plans Thursday that slash core public services and push California's financial problems into future years as the state struggles to survive a historic economic downturn.
Under the governor's budget scenarios, schools could let out students five to seven days early, an oil company would drill into California waters near Santa Barbara, and low-income elderly and disabled residents would receive smaller grants.
Schwarzenegger offered two proposals Thursday – one that bridges a $15.4 billion gap if three ballot measures pass next week, and another that closes a $21.3 billion shortfall if the measures fail. The latter plan was different largely in the severity of school cuts and burdens placed on cities and counties.
"This is the harsh reality of the crisis we face," Schwarzenegger told a Capitol news conference. "Sacramento is not Washington. … We can't spend what we don't have."
The Republican governor's proposals to balance the tottering state budget include up to $9 billion in cuts – as much as $5.4 billion of which could come from school spending. They also include laying off 5,000 state workers and borrowing a staggering $7.5 billion from financially strapped local governments and a cash-barren investment market.
Majority Democrats said the governor's numbers were realistic and promised to consider his ideas as early as next week, but they didn't commit to passing his cuts. The reductions slice into virtually every core Democratic priority.
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